A ballet about the courage of war was absolutely perfect for our times.
Raymonda, an English National Ballet production at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, was just that, set in the war in Crimea in 1854. But it could just as well have been today. Don’t forget that Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, annexing it from Ukraine.
The opening made a point of showing the important part newspapers played in this Victorian period and led into nurses in a war hospital, paying homage to the most influential woman in the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale, and ended with an upbeat wedding. There were three acts and a couple of intervals.
In between there were some stunning performances from a group of what must have been 40 or so talented performers, a mix of male and female. I watched mesmerised with my daughter Harriett, 11.
A highlight was when the ballerinas with their lanterns did a beautifully-choreographed scene, one row cleverly moving in between the next, back and forth with great effect. Some of the solo performances were really fascinating to see. We stared in awe at feet working overtime, producing a series of spectacular pirouettes and the whole range of ballet moves.
This is the wonderful thing about ballet. It is a marvellous art form. It’s about precision and timing and it is an absolute joy to watch perfection in motion. The hours that must be devoted to honing a ballerina’s craft – it’s a pleasure to watch.
“My friend is learning dance and she’s on grade four at the moment,” said Harriett. “She does tap, modern and ballet. When she gets to grade five, her ballet shoes will be fitted with bits of wood at the toes for pirouetting. That can’t be very comfortable.” No, it can’t be, and yet there was no grimacing – just lots of happy faces from these dedicated performers.
When you think that a typical theatre production involves speaking parts, it must be a challenge to get a story across with only ballet and classical music. The music by Alexander Glazunov was integral to the performance and it was a privilege to watch the orchestra in action.